Girl Most Likely

Release date: July 19, 2013
Directed by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Written by: Michelle Morgan
Produced by: Alix Madigan, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler, Kristen Wiig
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Running time: 1h 43min

Kristen Wiig as: Imogene Duncan
Other cast: Annette Bening, Darren Criss, Matt Dillon, Christopher Fitzgerald

Imogene, once a promising young New York playwright with promise, has fizzled thanks to a crisis of confidence. Heavily in denial about being dumped by her society boyfriend, Imogene uses her skill for drama to stage an elaborate fake suicide as an appeal for his sympathy. But her attempt backfires when she’s put into the custody of Zelda, her estranged gambling addict mother, and must return home with her to the Jersey shore. Desperate to get back to her Manhattan circle of so- called friends, Imogene must finally deal with her family, including her unique brother, Zelda’s new boyfriend The Bousche, plus a cute young lodger, who together help Imogene sort out her place in the world.

Production Notes

The enormous success of the hit comedy Bridesmaids caught the attention of many producers, including Celine Rattray and Trudie Styler, who were more than eager to work with the movie’s breakout star, Kristen Wiig. When they contacted her agent, they learned she was committed to producing and starring in an original comedy by Michelle Morgan. “Kristen was one of the people we most wanted to work with,” says Rattray. “Then we discovered she was already really interested in a script that was fun, smart and immensely entertaining. We reached out right away.” “I don’t know too many people who don’t love Kristen Wiig,” says Styler. “We’re mega fans. We adored her on ‘SNL,’ as well as in Bridesmaids. When I read the script, I knew it had lots of appeal. Imogene, the main character, is trying to find herself amidst these glamorous Upper East Side partygoers, but they are not particularly great friends. She’s an outsider from New Jersey, which embarrasses her, and when she is set adrift by circumstances, she has to come to terms with who she really is.”

When the script was finished, Morgan was happily living on her own and Girl Most Likely began to make the rounds. “At the time, Kristen Wiig was best known for “SNL” and a couple lines in Knocked Up,” Morgan says. “Her agent contacted me to tell me she liked it and we had lunch together. The script resonated with her for a number of reasons and she very generously came on board, along with producer Alix Madigan of Anonymous Content.” Wiig responded to the script’s heart and humor and quickly agreed to star and produce. “Michelle is extremely talented,” says the actress. “She wrote a beautiful, funny, unique script. And when we met, we instantly clicked. We started talking about directors almost immediately.” Producer Madigan recommended talking to the directing team of Bob Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, who had previously helmed American Splendor and The Nanny Diaries. “When we spoke with them over the phone about the script, it was a no-brainer,” says Morgan. “They are great collaborators.” Wiig agreed wholeheartedly. “We saw the film the same way from the start,” she says. “I was already a fan of American Splendor. They did just as amazing a job with this film, not to mention that they’re also just fun people to hang around with.” Morgan, Wiig, Berman and Pulcini worked on the script for several years before production began. “Development was always ongoing,” says Morgan. “Kristen is a very talented writer and she had ideas that we would incorporate. Shari and Bob had their own ideas. It’s very different from the script that I originally wrote. The great thing about moviemaking is the collaboration, especially if you love the people you are collaborating with.” Berman says the script made the seasoned co-directors laugh out loud, something they say rarely happens. “We thought Imogene was such a great character, especially with Kristen in the role. We were already huge fans, so this was a great opportunity to work with someone we admire.”

The director was also excited by Maven Pictures’ female-centric mandate. “The script has great, unconventional female characters in both Imogene and Zelda, her mother,” she notes. “And as a woman, I appreciated the unusual experience of working with producers and writers who are all women.” Pulcini was drawn to Morgan’s unique comic voice, which lends the film a quirky and personal style. “Plus, it’s always a pleasure to have an actor attached that you imagine in the role when you first read the script. Kristen was perfect for this.”

With a winning script, an outstanding cast and a pair of creative leaders at the ready, the producers were able to move quickly to make the film a reality. “Kristen had a short window of time before she had to get back to ‘SNL,’” says Rattray. “It was one of those crazy situations where we had to start preproduction before the deals were firmly in place either for Kristen, the filmmakers or the writer. We just kind of winged it.” “The schedule was the biggest challenge,” agrees Pulcini. “Kristen had a tiny window before ‘SNL’ started. Bridesmaids had just been released. Shari and I were still mixing the movie we had just finished. It was exhilarating too, because the schedule was so tight and it wasn’t made for a lot of money. We couldn’t spend a lot of time talking about things, we just had to do them.”

One of the delights of Michelle Morgan’s screenplay is the assortment of oddballs and eccentrics she has assembled to represent the two sides of Imogene’s life. “The screenplay is very character-driven, which is something I’m always drawn to,” says Wiig. “All the characters are so interesting. You don’t see those kinds of personalities that often and it makes for a really interesting story that is funny, without trying to be.”

Wiig brings her own accessibility and empathy to the character of Imogene, who could, her creator admits, have been a bit unsympathetic as she reverts to childish ways when returned to her childhood environment. “Kristen is relatable no matter what she’s doing,” says Morgan. “She’s so warm and sincere. I can’t see anyone else playing Imogene. The character is so flawed that, in someone else’s hands, there are moments when you wouldn’t have liked Imogene. Kristen inspires such compassion that it works. I feel extremely lucky that someone as cool and talented as her would even agree to say the words I’ve written.” The actress always saw more in the character than just an awkward, funny girl with wacky mother issues. “As skilled as she is at broad comedy, Kristen is also really good at finding the truth at the heart of a character,” says Pulcini. “It makes the funny stuff funnier if it’s couched in something real.” Playing Imogene also takes Wiig in a new direction professionally, says Rattray, one that will reveal the actual depth of her talent. “Kristen Wiig has proven herself to be the most talented comedic actress of her generation,” says Rattray. “And she’s a fabulous dramatic actress to boot. I think she was interested in this role because it had more dramatic content than what she’s done in the past. She liked where it stood in the combination of dramatic versus comedic moments.”

Wiig approached the project with a work ethic that set the bar high for her co-workers. She was never content to be a producer in name only. “She’s incredibly hard working,” Rattray says. “She gave her all at all times and was a very active producer for the film. She cared about every single issue, including casting, and she was generous with her creative opinions.” Wiig says her own experiences and insecurities as a writer gave her a window into Imogene’s head. “Imogene had the opportunity to write a play, but she put it off because she was scared it wouldn’t be good enough. That’s something a lot of writers feel. For me, sitting down to write means being vulnerable. You have to show it to someone else and you are always wondering if it’s going to be good. I have that fear, so I relate to her procrastination. It’s something you have to fight through.” At the beginning of the movie, Imogene is leading the life that she thought she always wanted, but she manages to lose her European beau, society girlfriends and literary cachet in short order. “She’s always believed that happiness depends on social status and having money,” Wiig says. “After the breakup with her boyfriend, she loses all of that. She goes into a downward spiral, but she discovers what’s really important through the family she tried to leave behind.”

Wiig can’t say enough positive things about working with Annette Bening, who plays her eccentric mother Zelda. “I’ll talk about Annette Bening as long as you want,” she says. “I was such a huge fan of hers before we did this movie and now I’m even more so. Besides being an incredible talent, she’s just a beautiful person. Being able to do scenes with her is one of the highlights of my career. I feel really honored that we got to work together.” Rattray, who worked with Bening on The Kids Are All Right, is just as enthusiastic. “She is a class act and such a talent,” the producer says. “Whenever she walks on the set, she makes it a happier place. Annette was our first choice for the role, and luckily for us, she is a huge fan of Kristen, so she responded very quickly.” Over the course of the film, Imogene’s relationship with Zelda changes drastically, as the daughter discovers information that forces her to view her mother’s foibles through new eyes. “In the beginning, we find out they haven’t seen each in something like eight years,” says Wiig. “When they are reunited, they’re strangers who have to find each other again and the way it happens is quite beautiful. Imogene thinks of herself as very different from her mother and has a lot of resentments she has never dealt with. Now, as an adult, she’s forced to look more closely, and they end up coming together on the other side of it.”

Because Lee has a job in an Atlantic City revue impersonating pop stars, the role required someone with singing and dancing talent, as well as great looks. Criss, who stars in the hit television series, “Glee,” fit the bill. “I’d never watched ‘Glee’ but I did a YouTube search and found an interview where he sang the answers with his guitar,” says Pulcini. “He seemed like he would be perfect for the role and a great foil for Kristen. When he auditioned, we knew he was the guy.” “Darren was the perfect person for the role,” offers Wiig. “He had to sing, be charming, and he’s just so sweet and really, really funny.”